Walking on the water

Today Carmen and I walked on water.  To be sure, we had a dock’s wooden planks between our feet and the waves, but as the waves heaved up and down and the wind blew fiercely into our faces, we felt very much in the same place as Peter realizing to his astonishment (and fear!) that he was walking on water.

This past week and a half has been an explosion of divine moments. We have shared wonderful fellowship at the family cabin of a fellow missionary family (Adam and Kim work with YWAM, not SIM, but are friends with whom we have been partnering as givers for over two years). As they are in the pause between their last assignment at a discipleship training school in Blackfalds, AB and their future assignment in Fiji, we had much to share about packing up belongings, selling / renting houses, and the uncertainty of waiting for God’s perfect timing to come to pass. We enjoyed eating on the water (at their table on the dock at the cabin), and returning three nights later for another floating repast followed by time in their wood-fired hot tub.

We enjoyed getting to know two fine young men working with CEF’s 5-day clubs in our community over supper, and discovering that Franco was a South African-born immigrant to Canada, while Tony was a Chinese-born immigrant to Canada. They were in La Ronge teaching both white and First Nations children about Jesus Christ. It was a marvelous picture of the diversity and global nature of the body of Christ. We were blessed by these young men’s servant attitudes as they played with Sara, helped us with our cleaning, and came back later in the week to help with our yard sale.

Later that week, I received a Skype message from Dan and Wanda Screpnek, our regional coordinators for SIM, asking me to call our national office. When I did, I was overwhelmed to learn that SIM had selected us to receive a large donation intended to support a Canadian couple going out for their first international assignment. The donation jumped us from 57% of our support to 80% of our support. I jumped in my car to find Carmen, who was introducing Franco and Tony to Robertsons Trading and their collection of mounted animals, artwork, and furs. When I told her the news (twice – she didn’t believe me the first time!), she was as amazed and awed at God’s goodness as I was.

The next day, Carmen and I had the pleasure of celebrating our 15th anniversary in the company of my work colleagues on a supper houseboat cruise as our office bid farewell (for now!) to our summer student employees. The trip started with bright sunshine, but we soon encountered a fierce thunderstorm and pounding rain, before finishing once again on a calm and peaceful note.

With that thunderstorm in mind, we were somewhat nervous about the forecast for more thunderstorms on Saturday, the day we had advertised for our first yard sale as we prepare to leave for our assignment with the SIM Region of Southern Africa office. After some urgent prayer requests, we were blessed to have a bright and cloudless day for our sale. With help from several friends from our church (and Franco, our new 5-day club worker friend), our sale was a big success, selling a lot of our initial offerings and bringing in over $1400.

That afternoon became stressful as we prepared frantically for another showing of our house to prospective buyers, but the stress passed as we finished restoring order just in time to welcome Chuck and Shari to our house. As they toured the house, we could see their enthusiasm growing, and by the end of the evening, we had a handshake deal to sell our house to them. We also had the very daunting task of preparing to clear out of the house by their requested possession date of August 30th.

On Sunday morning, we had the thrill of meeting the first foster baby of our pastor John and his wife Timea, who have been close friends since their arrival and supporters of our missionary call since its earliest days. As I heard Adam speak for the second week in a row on the metamorphosis that comes as we repent (literally ‘change our thinking’ in Greek) and allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and senses in Christ, I was overwhelmed with the goodness of God to us.

And then, as often happens, the storms began. Over the following days, as the prospect of my departure from KCDC became imminent and my boss and colleagues worked through with me where we were in our organizational preparations, it became clear that it would be necessary for me to honour my contract’s provision for two months notice and remain with KCDC until the end of October. This was not the timeline we were hoping for, but I feel it is important to finish well with my current employer.

As these discussions were going on, Carmen arrived at my office on Monday afternoon to find me interrupting a meeting with my boss Randy to talk to our buyer and get some bad news — they were having difficulty in financing with their bank in spite of their pre-approval. We were faced with a challenging decision – should we go ahead with our second “household sale” now that the possession date was pushed back and the completion of the sale was in doubt? As Carmen had been walking into the building, the Lord had been bringing to her mind the story of Peter, who jumped out of the boat in faith, but began to sink after he noticed the wind and the waves. While Carmen and I empathize all too well with Peter, we decided to follow his initial example of faith, rather than his subsequent reaction of doubt. The household sale would proceed, albeit in a somewhat less comprehensive mode.

We were later encouraged greatly by an email from Carmen’s cousin Laurel referring us to the My Utmost for His Highest devotional from August 17th (the day of both our yard sale and the agreement to sell our house). The devotional started Jesus . . . said to him, ’You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have . . . and come, follow Me.’  The Lord’s message to us through Laurel:  “You now need to guard against allowing yourself to become discouraged by any source that would cause you to doubt the decision you have made and the action you have taken.”

And then early this morning, the news: our buyers had been unable to get financing for our house, and the deal was dead. So there we were, on the dock, swaying up and down, with the wind blowing fiercely in our faces, praying to God. As Carmen prayed thanking God for the wind that reminded her of the comparison in the Bible between the wind and the Holy Spirit, this song came to mind. As she finished praying, we closed our eyes and listened together to Steve Bell’s beautiful version of an old maritime hymn:

I feel the winds of God today
Today my sail I lift
Though heavy oft with drenching spray
And torn with many a rift
If hope would light the water’s crest
And Christ my bark will use
I’ll seek the seas at His behest
And brave another cruise

It is the wind of God that dries
My vain regretful tears
Until with braver thoughts shall rise
The purer brighter years
If cast on shores of selfish ease
Or pleasure I should be
Lord let me feel Your freshening breeze
And I’ll set back to sea

If ever I forget Thy love
Or how that love was shown
Lift high the blood-red flag above
It bears Thy name alone
Great Pilot of my onward way
Thou will not let me drift
I feel the winds of God today
Today my sail I lift

Used by permission – see more at: http://stevebell.com/2009/06/i-feel-the-winds-of-god-today/

And so we walk on the water – we don’t know how long it will be before we falter and Jesus has to pick us up with the same loving wryness with which he chided Peter, but while we walk, we will praise him for his power and goodness in keeping us even through the storm.

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Where the Giraffe Lives

Sara and stuffed toy giraffe

Sara and her stuffie giraffe, Long-neck

Our daughter Sara, who just turned 3, has recently taken to announcing “I wish I could move to the place where the giraffe lives.” We have been trying to introduce her to the idea of our move to South Africa, and her table placemat with the world map has a giraffe right about where Johannesburg is, so she now has it firmly in her head that we will be moving to ‘where the giraffe lives’.

World map place mat

Sara’s dinner-time view of the world!

As we talk to people about moving to Johannesburg, we are often asked about the danger, or told how dangerous it is. One of Carmen’s acquantainces recently told her that she would never take her children to a place like that.

So we have had to think about this question. As we have thought, we have had a number of reflections.

First, danger is universal — we cannot avoid it by choosing to remain in our comfortable Canadian home. We have friends right now in Regina whose daughter (around Sara’s age) is going through treatment for a rare form of leukemia. Being in Canada doesn’t guarantee safety any more than being in Johannesburg guarantees harm. Our own personal experience in having our house broken into and our car stolen and destroyed right here in La Ronge reminds us of this fact as well.

Second, crime and its associated dangers are often very localized. One neighborhood can be very dangerous while another neighborhood a kilometer away can be very safe. From the reports we have heard from others who have lived where we will be, we will be living in a good area.

Third, as the news industry cliche goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Episodes of violent crime receive much news play, while days, weeks, and months of personal safety and security receive much less prominence. “Johannesburg block celebrates 10 years without crime” is not a headline we are likely to read. The recent news coverage about Oscar Pistorius’ defence for shooting his girlfriend reminds me that even from close-up, it is very easy to receive a distorted impression of risk. From a distance, it’s even easier.

Our North American culture often emphasizes very heavily our personal safety, and even more heavily the safety of our children. This is often reflected in decisions like tearing down playground equipment in case someone falls and gets hurt. We are acclimatized to safety, and the thought of risk troubles us. The thought of unfamiliar risk troubles us greatly, because we do not understand how to evaluate it.

Jesus, on the other hand, does not emphasize our personal safety. He calls us to be faithful even if it means suffering, persecution, or even death. He also reminds us not to be anxious about our life — “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27) We choose to follow Jesus, rather than our culture. We know that this may mean danger, but we trust him to walk with us through it.

And, as an added benefit — Sara will get to see where giraffes really live — not safely behind bars in a North American zoo, but roaming free in the wilds of southern Africa. We look forward to many such encounters!

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Our journey begins

Welcome to our new website! This site will be one of our tools for communicating with our partners in ministry.

You may be wondering about the name. We view Luke as one of the scriptural examples for our ministry. Luke is often best remembered for two things: first, as the writer of both the Gospel of Luke and the later book of Acts, and second, for being a doctor. Obviously, as neither of us are medical workers, it is not his work as a physician that inspires us! Rather, we take note of the fact that Luke was a part of Paul’s missionary team who travelled with Paul, and through his participation in the work, was able to write the book of Acts, which has inspired the church for nearly 2000 years.

Like Luke, we will be coming alongside missionaries as they work in their new cultures. Like him, one of our contributions will be to write about and chronicle their work. In doing so, we trust that God will use our work to encourage and inspire his church. Also, we trust that, like Luke, we will be able to offer some practical assistance to the missionaries we serve with, whether that is in communications training or computer assistance.

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